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In this very first course of its kind from the legendary Tommy Emmanuel, Fingerstyle Milestones is ideal for early intermediate to advanced guitar players who are ready to develop finger and thumb independence and explore the polyphonic wonders of fingerstyle guitar!
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Tommy Emmanuel, CGP has achieved enough musical milestones to satisfy several lifetimes. At the age of six, he was touring Australia with his family band. By 30, he was a rock lead guitarists playing stadiums. At 44, he become one of five people ever named a Certified Guitar Player (CGP) by his idol, music icon Chet Atkins. Today, he plays sold-out shows everywhere from Nashville to Sydney to London. Influenced by, the Merle Travis/Chet Atkins fingerstyle of guitar picking, Tommy developed a style of solo guitar playing that encompasses the range of a whole band - covering drums, bass, rhythm, lead guitar and vocal melody simultaneously. While some artist take a band on the road, Tommy builds a complete sonic world entirely on his own with no overdubs or loops. Tommy has multiple Grammy nominations, countless "Guitar Player" awards, and he has won numerous magazine polls naming him the greatest acoustic guitarist alive. He's grateful for it all. For Tommy though, the greatest reward is always the same - to make the next great record, the next great TrueFire lesson, and to see the beaming audience at the next great show!
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Tommy Emmanuel is indisputably one of the world's most accomplished fingerstyle guitarists. His compelling musical performances, mesmerizing stage presence, jaw-dropping technique and beaming personality has attracted (if not outright converted) thousands of flat-picking guitarists, across all styles of music, to the art of fingerstyle guitar.
This course offers 97 lessons covering 2+ hours of material in step-by-step, digestible presentation.
Hi, I'm Tommy Emmanuel. Welcome to Fingerstyle Milestones. In my travels I meet people of all levels who play guitar. I meet people who have already been playing guitar for a long time, I meet some players that are good and some players that are just starting out. At whatever level you are at this course is going to be the one that will help you get started in fingerstyle. Learning fingerstyle is a series of milestones. The most important ones are those early milestones, the ones where you learn the skills to really get the thumb going and to get the independence in your right hand. I've organized this course into four sections. The first section is orientation. Here we are going to talk about different guitars, and the reasons why we use different guitars, and also strings and thumbpicks. All of the things I think are important for you to have knowledge of before you get started. The second section is boomchick. Boomchick is the sound that the thumb makes. So I'm going to show you the importance of the angle of the thumb. where you put your thumbpick, and how you put your hand. All of that stuff. It's all important in getting the right sound with boomchick. Section three is a bit more difficult. Keeping the thumb going, bringing the fingers in, all that kind of stuff. You're going to love it. Section four is about learning songs and learning exercises. These exercises that I've come up with for you are specifically designed to give you the skills with which to play these kinds of songs and these arrangements. The exercises are hammer-ons, pull-offs, thumb exercises. A lot of things that you're going to need to develop the skill to play these songs. Everything is tabbed and in music notation for you. There's interactive tab as well, where you can go in and slow things down, you can loop sections. I'm sure with this course that all of your questions will be answered and all the road blocks that you think are in front of you are just going to slowly disappear because we're going to explain everything and everything will be answered. Okay, enough talk now let's get to work. Grab your guitar.
In this first section we're going to cover guitars, strings, picks, styles, all the things that you need to know before you get started.
Hello thrill seekers! We are going to be talking about many things today. First of all I want to talk about your guitar, and what kind of guitar you play. A lot of people think that playing fingerstyle they have to have a certain kind of guitar. That's not true. The best guitar for you is the one that you love playing. That's all that matters. It doesn't matter where it was made, what it costs, what name is on it. If you like playing it, that is what is important. I'm playing a steel string acoustic guitar. This is a Maton guitar. I like this particular guitar because it suits me. The neck is nice and fine, it has a good feel to it. The reason I'm bringing guitars up is because a lot of the stuff that I play, and that fingerstyle players play, we sometimes bring our thumb over the top. So if you're playing nylon string or a classical guitar, they have a much wider neck. So unless you've got fairly big hands you're going to struggle to get your thumb over the top. So what I'm hoping to show you in this course is alternative ways of being able to play the things that I would normally play with my thumb, but with your finger, to bar it across. So that's going to be important for you to know that. If you haven't bought a guitar yet and you're just getting started don't spend a fortune on a guitar. Just get a decent guitar. Something that's a well-proven brand like Fender, Yamaha, Ibanez, Maton, Martin, Gibson, any of those, they are all good. They will all do the job for you. It's your choice whether you go steel string or nylon string. The reason I don't play nylon string too much is that I don't play with my nails. This is something that is your choice as well. You can either choose to grow your nails and play like so many fingerstyle player do. They either use their nails or they use the acrylic nails. I play with calluses that I've developed on the tips of my fingers. You could do that as well. Some people play with finger picks instead of nails. So there are a lot of choices out there.
I'd like to talk about thumbpicks and how to use them and the different kinds. The thumbpicks that I like are the Jim Dunlop thumbpicks. I also have other thumbpicks that are made by Jim Dunlop that have my signature on them. I like this plastic, strong, thick thumbpick. There are a lot of different kinds of thumbpicks and you have to find what works for you. Make sure that it's not too loose, that it sits nice and tight, yet doesn't give you the blue finger. If a thumbpick is too tight, it will cut off the circulation and the end of your thumb will go cold and sometimes they go blue. I think that's why Jerry Reed wrote the song Blue Finger because he was wearing a thumbpick that was too tight. You've got the Fred Kelly picks, which are softer. They don't suit me, but a lot of people use them. The Jim Dunlop are the ones that I like the most. These work for me. They shouldn't be too long and they should just sit nicely. There's also a lot to be said for playing without a thumbpick. Quite a lot of the songs that I play, I take the thumbpick off and just use the flesh of my thumb. The reason I do that is because it gives it a softer, gentler sound. In the Robert Johnson blues style or Eric Clapton - you can see that he doesn't use a thumbpick. What he does is gets his thumb under the string and pops it out and give it that funky kind of edge. So that's another way of using your thumb. That's what I wanted to tell you about thumbpicks, experiment, go to music shops and try twenty different thumbpicks until you feel it is sitting good. Sit and play some songs and get it to where you feel where you can rely on that thumbpick to be sounding good and sitting in the right spot. So it's up to you. Some people have small hands. My wife has very small hands. She wants to play fingerstyle the same as I do. In order to find her a thumbpick that's small enough - she just found this thumbpick in a store and then put a little electrcal tape on it to make it tighter. So if you find most thumbpicks are too big for you, find one that is close and then put a little bit of tape on it and make it tight on your finger. It's a way of being clever and inventive to help you play better and play your music better, so that's a good idea.
I get asked a lot about the tunings that I use. Most of my songs are in normal guitar tuning. A lot of people associate fingerstyle guitar with open tunings. It's true, there are a lot of players who play in unusual tunings. Like a drop C tuning, or a DADGAD tuning, or an open G. The guitar sounds wonderful tuned in these open tunings. I don't play many songs in open tunings. I have a couple of songs. some songs that I've written because of the actual tuning. I guess the most unusual tuing that I use is normal guitar tuning and then the A string is down to G, and the E string is down to D, then the rest of it is normal. When you play it open, technically it's a G 6th tuning with a D base. I got that tuning from Chet Atkins. I wrote songs like The Tall Fiddler, The Cowboy's Dream, The Mystery - I wrote those songs in that tuning becasue I love that tuning. As far as strings go, I use uncoated strings because my hands don't sweat. If you have sweat or clammy hands you need to wash your hands more. You can buy coated strings and they will last a lot longer if you're the type of person that sweats battery acid. Too many hamburgers! The gauges of these strings, they are a light gauge, Martin strings. They are 12 to 54. That is right in the middle. The guitar is nice and comfortable, the action is nice and comfortable and the strings have just enough bite-back for me to enjoy playing it and for me being able to dig in. A lot of people start out with lighter strings, like 11-52. That's fine. You just have to know that you're not going to get the volume and the punch out of your guitar, but you will when you use a slightly heavier string. Some of my other guitars I use medium gauge strings which is 13-56. I keep an eye on the neck, you have to have the neck nice and straight. When the neck is straight there's not as much pressure to push the strings down, not as much hard work to get the clarity. Make sure your guitar is set up nicely with good strings on it, you've got your thumbpick, you've got the right attitude, you're all ready to go.
There are many different kinds of fingerstyle. Classical guitar is a type of fingerstyle. There are jazz players out there like the great Martin Taylor who play in a fingerstyle. You've got the bluegrass approach. You've got folk players. You've got a guy like James Taylor who has a beautiful style. His way of playing is so economical and so suits his way of singing but is really just as complex as any other style. You've got guys like Don McLean who have their own kind of style as well. John Mayer, Eric Clapton, so many great players out there and they all play fingerstyle as well as regular plectrum style guitar. I'm hoping to give you the tools to get started. It's a very physical skill playing fingerstyle. What you've got to understand right from the start is that first of all you've got to go slowly, you've got to meticulously work things out carefully and then practice them up. It's skills that you are learning. When you've practiced these skills enough they start to sound like music, and it's a beautiful thing. This is what we live for. Starting out learning these skills, and then they turn to music. But remember that you are learning skills first. You've got to stick at it and keep at it until those skills turn to music. The different styles that you'll experience are styles where the guitar player is playing everything himself, and there's no singing. Then you've got other styles there is a singer and he's backing himself, that's another style as well. Then you've got the Jerry Reed funky rhythms using amazing technique stuff that I'd be happy to show you. So fingerstyle is very complex and yet when you break it down you can understand it and that's what we're hoping to do with you. para. Let me give you some examples of some different kinds of fingerstyle. You've got the Merle Travis almost Honky Tonk sounding where the thumb is playing really what the left hand on the piano plays. Then you bring the melody in. Then you've got the Chet Atkins style where everything is neat and in its place. You've got the folk style. You've got the style where you play the rhythm with your fingers and the bass with your thumb. You've got a more funky style. And you've got a more classical type style. So you've got all different styles of fingerstyle. All of it is good fun and all of it is challenging and all of it is good music.
A lot of people come to me and say that they can't play that type of song because I don't have big hands like yours, or that they don't have guitar player hands. I don't buy any of that. I'll tell you why. Because there are people in this world who have tiny little hands, like little children. I've seen so many young children, six, seven eight years old, who are playing guitar and pulling off these things and reaching the stuff that adults have come to me and said they can't play because they don't have big hands. I tell them that it's no excuse. Small hands means more you have to be more determined. What happens with your hands is that if you keep trying it you will get it. And your hands will shape to what you need them to do. When someone tells me they can't get their thumb over I tell them to find another way of doing it. Don't let anything stop you. Don't let the fact that you have small hands stand in your way. I've always had fairly big hands even when I was a little boy. I guess I was lucky in that respect. However there are people around who can play a lot more complicated stuff than me and their hands are a lot smaller. It's really a matter of how determined you are and how committed you are to getting the job done.
I want to make an important point to you now and that is using your memory. It's very important that everything you learn along the way, bit by bit you have to memorize it. You work it out and then you go over it many times until you remember it. Then you move on to the next part. You put those two together and then memorize both. That's how you put a song together. You use your memory and you use repetition as your tool to help you remember. Make repetition your dearest friend. You're going to need repetition in order to become a good musician and a good technician with your hands. Committing everything to memory as you go is really important. Don't rely on trying to read it from music or tablature. Commit it to memory. Remember the fingering, remember the shapes, remember the positions. And don't forget your mother on Mother's Day.
It is my great desire for you to start out the right way and for this instruction to be the key to your future as a player. I'm going to start this whole thing making you aware of fine detail and the simplest things. But along the way there has to be milestones, goals for you to aim for. Your first milestone will be truly understanding the technique of fingerstyle. When you can see that, feel it, and understand it, that's a great milestone. Then we're going into independence and working on playing the thumb against fingers, and I'm going to show you a lot of exercises to develop that, and then learning the simplest songs that we can. That's your next milestone, getting to the point where all of the things you've learned and the practice along the way has gotten you to the point where you can play a song all the way through, and make it sound like music. It's really up to you how good you want to get at it, which equals how dedicated you are to it. I can only speak for myself and my peers, and I can see how driven we are. We don't only love it, we're consumed by it, it's our life and our passion, and I'm hoping the same fire can be lit in you. If that is the case, then the next milestone in your life is to take all of these techniques and abilities and seek out other songs and slowly build an arsenal of great songs. That's going to be a great thing for you, you'll be able to go everywhere and jam with people. And you'll know songs they mention, because you did this course and you know the importance of learning certain songs. If you travel all over the world, and you meet players that play fingerstyle, you'll find 99% of them know these certain songs, because those are the important songs that teach us so much about the instrument, and they came from the big guys before us like Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed. The guys who really showed us the way, and what's possible. So let's run with it, set our goals, and get going.
Now you should be ready, you've got your guitar, your thumbpick, your strings, and you've got the right attitude. Now let's get to work.
Our first milestone is about to happen, and that is to truly understand how the thumb works, and getting it working on its own and separate from the fingers. I want to say go slowly, this takes time and it's very important to do it right from the start. When you're able to do this and get the thumb doing the backing, that will be your first milestone.
I'm going to start out with some simple chords. Before I play this for you, I want to tell you that the rule is that the first note of every bar should be the root note of the chord you're in. So if I'm in the key of E, my first note with my bass should be the E note. So I'm spelling out E, E, B, E, E, E, B, E. Now, when I move to the A, my first note is an A. When I go to B, it's B, and so on. So it's important for you to pay attention to that, that the first note of the down beat of every bar should be the root note of the chord you're in. I'm going to show you how to get the thumb going. When I used to teach students one on one, I used to tape their fingers down near the sound hole, to make sure they didn't use their fingers to play the notes, because that's what everyone wants to do, because it's easy. But that's not going to make you a good thumb and fingerstyle player. And that's what I'm here to do, to get you to that point!
In order to make the sound I'm looking for, which is boom chick boom chick, the way to do it is take a bit of the ringing out of the note with the palm of the hand. You rest it right on the string, on the saddle. Now, the fingers are doing nothing, they're staying out of the way. This is the very beginning, and it is so important for you to understand that. You might notice I'm striking that third string a bit as well, which is helping me to spell out what the chord is.
I just want to show you and talk quickly about the angle of my thumb when I'm playing this boom chick bass. As you can see my thumb is literally parallel to the string. I'm not moving very much, the thumb is just moving enough to spell out those notes. If you start doing stuff like putting your thumb at an angle, it's going to sound worse, and look silly, which we definitely do not want. You see, when it's parallel I'm getting a lot of clarity out of those notes and minimal pick noise. So be concious of the angle that your thumb is at. Now, I've prepared some exercises for you.
The exercises that we need to do together, we're now going to play through in the key of E. I'm going to show you some ways of playing around the key of E, laying the thumb in different positions. While we're in this key of E, soemtimes I cover the A and the D strings with just one finger. Now, I do that all of the time, and it's about saving energy. However, most people don't do that, so I'll try to be aware so that you don't get confused.
Now we're in the key of C, and I like teaching this because now it's a bit more difficult. We've got to move the bass, using this finger like that. We go to F, there's the F bar chord, which, for a beginner is pretty hard to play because you've got to push down all of those strings. But if you're comfortable with it, that will be easier for you. A lot of times I use my thumb over the top, but you may not be comfortable getting your thumb over there on the F. I'm so used to it that my hand does it without thinking about it. But now that I'm teaching you this method, I'll stick to the bar chords for you. So let's play C, F, G, and back to C.
The next exercise is playing boom chick using bar chords. Now, we've done the E before, so basically if you play up here in G where the bar chord is, it's basically the same as the E, you just move it up. We're going to spell out the chords G, C, D, G. Playing the boom chick using these shapes sounds like this. Being able to do that, and know those shapes is going to help you in the future when you're trying to come up with arrangements of songs and you're looking for positions where you can get the melody and keep the boom chick going underneath, you're going to be able to get that if you know these positions. The other thing I wanted to point out is that when I play C in a bar chord like that you'll notice these fingers are grouped together, becaues it's stronger if you use a couple of fingers together. So we've got G, C, D, G. In this style you don't get up the dusty end of the guitar too often, but it is fun up there. Chet Atkins had a great arrangment of a song called Mystery Train, an Elvis Presley tune, and he played right up here. So I'm still getting the low bass notes, but getting the melody up high. So as you can see, all of this you can move around and find those positions, you've just got to keep looking.
There's a lot of songs in E and A, and using these positions you'll be able to get the nice low bass notes, and still be able to play melodies up higher. You need to learn as many good positions as possible. These are all very important in learning this style properly, so I'm going to show you. Here's an E, and now I'm going to A, B, E. So basically the bass part is starting on the low E and then switching to the A I'm just playing that much of the chord and spelling out A, B. Then I switch to the B as a bar chord, starting with the B bass. If you remember what I told you the first note of every bar is the root note of the chord you're in.
It's important that you get to this first milestone before you move on to the next one. The first one is really getting the thumb going, playing the boom chick properly. This is in itself a really great milestone, to be able to do that. So please work on getting your thumb going before moving on to all of the exercises, let's take it one step at a time.
The next section, your next milestone, is getting the fingers going while keeping the thumb going. This is where it gets more complicated, but once you get the idea, it's going to be not only a lot of fun, but also a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction for you as a player, but it will also give you the tools to be a good accompanist.
Getting together and jamming with other players, learning from them, and handing on whatever information you have is a really good thing and a really important part of being a real musician. Say for instance I met up with another player and he asked "Do you know Avalon in C?" and I would say "Yes." Some of the things I might do is play the melody with him. When it's time for him to take a solo, what will I do? Well, I'll use my skills to provide a good backing for him that won't get in the way, that will be supportive and musically right and hopefully inspire him to play his solos. So I've supported him or her with my boom chick bass, spelled the chords out, and played some little chords as well. These things are all important to learn, and they're all good tools to have your musical conversations with other musicians.
I want to touch on a few technique things that I think are important. When I'm playing songs in this style, my main melody fingers are the first two. But I do sometimes use the third finger and the pinkey, and Jerry Reed used to only use those two. You've just got to find your way that works well for you. The important thing to me when I play this style is making the melody feel and sound good. So what I do is I learn a song, I work out an arrangement, I practice it, and then when I've practiced it and my hands know what they're doing I start focusing in on making the melody feel good. The other thing I wanted to point out is that sometimes when I'm playing single line melody with my thumbpick, in order to make different dynamics and different tones, I'll sometimes play a note like that, and then I may turn the thumbpick on a slide angle to give me a different sound. That helps me to get a lot of different tones and a voice-like quality out of the instrument.
I'd like to touch on a very important subject now, and that is time. I'm not talking about time in a watch or Time the magazine. I'm talking about time and feel within your playing, getting a groove going is very important. And you know, everyone needs to work on their time. And I remember when I was younger I was given erroneous information that it was the drummer's job to keep time, and so the rest of us felt free to have a bad time. It's not the drummer's job to keep time, it's everyone's. You've got to be aware of it, and one of the best things that I can do for you right now is make you aware of time. When someone does that, you suddenly become sensitive to it, you go back to listen to music that you used to listen to and see it from a different perspective. One of the best things that happened to me is working with a metronome. I use this little tuner, with a built-in metronome. When I first started working with a metronome I felt imprisoned and chained up by it, and I couldn't get in a pocket with it, and that was because I wasn't used to playing that strong and rigid of a time. But once I got used to playing with a metronome, it set me free. I really enjoy playing with a metronome now. But, like all of us, I think you'll find when you first start doing it that the metronome slows down all of the time, but it's not, it's us speeding up. We've just got to make ourselves stop and be aware of what we're actually doing. Let me say that one of the best things to help you as a musician is to record yourself and have a listen, see what you sound like. It's a way of having you help yourself. Be honest and hear the things you know you need to work on. Time takes a while to develop, but it's part of your arsenal that you will need.
Thrill-seekers, we are back, and we are about to do our next level of work, and our next milestone. That next milestone is keeping the thumb going and bringing the fingers in. This is very exciting. So I'm going to use the chords B, A, and B again. Now, you want to move on to this: Leaving the pinkey down, I'm going to spell out the chord, but the thumb continues playing. I'll do it very slowly so you can watch it a few times around and get used to it. Now, you can move around, you don't have to stay in E, you can go to G as I showed you before, but it makes no difference. This is our first step to getting our fingers working independently with the thumb. There it is!
The next exercise I feel is extremely important because this is where the fingers play a little accented beat. The reason I use this exercise is because this is where we're now getting close to the beginning of independence between the thumb and the fingers. The fingers play this, and the thumb plays a solid time, and those are the first steps towards independence. And your fingers are doing something against the thumb, as you'll see now when I slow it right down. Sped up it's got a real swing to it. We've got to start out slowly, though, otherwise we won't understand it. So, let's play it together!
Continuing on to the next exercise, which deals with more independence between the fingers and the thumb. What we're going to do now is use all three fingers to spell out the notes, while the thumb keeps doing its thing. Sometimes when I look down I almost feel like "What's going on?", but you see my hand is doing it and that's a result of the hours and hours of practice I've put in to get my hands to do that. What I want to say to you is take it slowly and try to get used to it. It's going to take time, and you'll fumble around when you first start doing this, and that is normal, because you're learning skills you've never used before. You'll probably get sore fingers and aching muscles, I don't know. But just give yourself time and go through each exercise meticulously. If you do it properly, I promise you you'll get the result at the end.
Before I get to the next section of exercises I wanted to tell you a bit about anticipating the melody with the right hand, which is what we'll be concentrating on. You'll find we'll be using this a lot in songs, for instance, there's a Chet Atkins song called Trambone. And if I played without anticipating the melody, it would sound like this. So I use that a lot, in tunes like Bye Bye Blackbird, the very first note is anticipated, and by anticipated I mean slightly ahead of the beat. It has feeling, it has swing to it. In order for you to be able to do that, we're going to have to go through these exercises that get your hand used to playing melodies and arpeggios with anticipated notes. Got it?
The exercise that I want you to learn now is the arpeggios with the fingers, but anticipating the notes. Also it's kind of a way of swinging a little. The bass is still doing the same thing, but the hands are a little different. I'll just do that again. I had to remind myself to use all three fingers in this exercise, and you can do it anywhere on the neck. So that's a good exercise for getting the fingers on your right hand used to playing something with a swing and an anticipation to it.
This is a little chord sequence, E, E7, A, F#7, into B, back to E, and we're going to do these exercises using this chord structure. So let's do this one first, slowly.
Before you move on to learning the songs, make sure you do go through all of those exercises. Take them seriously, they are going to help you and prepare you to play the songs. So enjoy taking your time with those exercises before moving on to the songs, but do them first.
This is the fourth section, and now we're talking about songs and learning songs, and the exercises I have laid out for you. Make sure that before you go into this last section that you've done all of the work in the previous sections. Make sure you've got your thumb going, you've got the independence, you've done the exercises, and you're technically and physically ready to learn these songs.
I'd like to talk about learning songs now. With learning songs, the way I've always done it is very slowly. When you're learning a fingerstyle song, or playing a song in fingerstyle, you can't learn the two parts and put them together, it just doesn't work that way. What you have to do is learn the whole thing bit by bit, and go very slowly. Whether you read music or tablature and work it out through that, you still have to go slow. When you're working things out like I do, by ear, you just have to learn it bar by bar. And it's a good way to learn, because it's thorough, and it's meticulous, and if you go slowly then you'll be able to play it and know every part is right. I always learn songs slowly, and when I'm sure that I've got everything right, I switch mindsets and begin focusing on practicing all of the new skills. By the time I've practiced them enough, they turn to music, and that's what I live for, playing music! So, I just want to give you a little example, a song of mine called Luttrell from an album called Only a long while ago. The song was written as a dedication to Chet Atkins, because Luttrell is the town where he's from. I want to show you that to put this song together, I had to do it very slowly, because the main melody part had hammer-ons and pull-offs and things like that. At a normal tempo, the song goes like this. Now if I slowed that down, this is what I'm actually doing. So you see each bar that I'm playing, I'm going hammer-on with my fingers and then the thumb is doing the bass sound. So I would recommend if you were going to learn that song, then start out learning it at a much slower pace, and then you can hear everything you're doing and make sure the fingering is right, and then you practice until you can play it at full speed. When I'm playing it now, because I've practiced it and played it, I'm not thinking about the skill of playing the song, I'm actually thinking about the melody and how I want to make it feel.
It's time for our next big milestone, and that is learning a song. Now, before we learn this song that I've written for you, called Beginner's Blues, there are a few techniques that I haven't shown you yet, that I'd like to show you before I teach you the song. Hammer-ons come first, and I'm going to do this exercise for you really slowly. So what I'm doing there is I'm playing the bass with my thumb, and then I'm hammering on. It looks really easy, doesn't it? But let me just say it's quite difficult when you haven't done it before, and you will fumble around a little bit for a while, but that's okay, you're like me, you're human! So that's the first exercise. The second is pull-offs and hammer-ons. This is good because it's working your pinkey, which is normally the weakest link. So what I'm doing is playing an A minor there, and pulling down with the little finger, which is quite a hard exercise, and you would be quite lucky to get it if you're just starting out. But I hope you prove me wrong! Wow, it's hypnotic when you play it like that.
We're about to reach our next milestone, which is learning this song. I wrote this little tune specifically to give you something challenging but simple to start with. In this song, we incorporate playing the bass with the thumb, and it also has hammer-ons and pull-offs, and a nice steady groove. It's called the Beginner's Blues, here we go.
The beginner's blues, in the key of E. So in the first part of it, I've playing a background note with the thumb, and then with the fingers I'm pulling down with my little finger and then on the second string as well. Then I switch to A, and then back to E, and then to B. Then I do this little blues run. So this is the same shape as the E. One thing I want to point out is that when I do that little run, I'm doing that specific shape.
All right we're going to learn a new song now, and before we learn this song, I just want to tell you that this is another milestone for you. Not just learning the songs, but learning these new skills, which is really what it's all about, so that you can learn more songs. So I'm going to teach you Buffalo Girls, but before that I want to show you some exercises to prepare you for playing this song. I also want to say a big thanks to my friend John Knowles for giving me the idea to teach Buffalo Girls, because I asked him if he knew any nice, simple melodies for this course, and he said well, what about this one. So I'm going to show you these exercises which are going to prepare you to play Buffalo Girls. I've put the song in the key of G, which is your bass note and your anchor point, which you'll be holding down with your second finger.
I'm going to play through Buffalo Girls for you, and you can watch for a while and then work on each section, or you can try to play along with me.
There's a tough little exercise that I want to give you now, but you're going to need to get started using more difficult positions. I want to be able to give you some exercises that get you used to stretching your hand out and reaching for notes. This one is using a slide with a pinkey, and as I've said before the pinkey is our weakest point that we need to constantly work on and strengthen. This exercise is D using that bar position, then I go to the G, then the A and I use that position and my hand changes position a little bit when I switch to the A, then back to the D. So that's what it looks like, so now what we do is the high slide down and pull of with the pinkey, while keeping the thumb going. This is where the real fun begins! I'll do that really slowly for you now. Let me point out a few things, when I'm doing this I can feel my thumb, the outside of the palm, and part of my ring finger all starting to ache, and that's normal. That means we're really using all of the muscles and building the strength in our left hand that we are going to need to be good players and play with clarity. Clarity takes strength and strength gives us control, and that is what we need with our left hand in order to play well, okay? Hope you enjoyed that exercise.
We are now going to move on to a great little tune called Creole Belle. I think the first time I heard the great Creole Belle was from the great Doc Watson, and I loved it. It's a very simple song, but you can do a lot with it. What I want to point out to you today is that I've decided I'd like to teach you this song and see if you can get your thumb over the top to play this song. So the song is in C, and to get the melody right I use my thumb over the top, and not everyone is comfortable with that as I've said earlier. What I want to do is teach you the song and start off by using a capo, because when you bring the capo up the neck, the frets slowly get closer together. To make it easier for you, we're going to start with the capo on the fourth fret where it is easier to get your thumb over the top, playing in the C position, but technically it will be in E. So that's what we're going to do and I will walk you through it slowly.
I want to quickly talk about capos, and if you don't have one, and you've got an acousic guitar, I suggest you do get one, there are many types, but two that I personally use the most. The first is Kyser, which I like because I can just flip it on and off easily, which I have to do sometimes on stage within one song, which is something you can only do with a Kyser. But there are so many different types of capos out there, what you're looking for is a capo that does the job for you, but is as accurate as possible. It's also good to remember that the capo is on a spring, so if you put it on at a weird angle, the pressure of the capo will pull the strings out of tune, so practicing putting the capo on straight is very important. So you see, I have taught myself how to get a feel for it. The other capo I use a lot is the Shubb. There's a little trick to get this to be accurate, and that is that you line it up with the fret, which I use as a ruler, and come back about half an inch from the fret. Grab the neck, and with the pointer and middle fingers push down evenly, after which you flip the black part up. And there it is, in tune like I expected it to be. And why did I expect it to be? Because I practiced it, that's the whole thing. If you get a Shubb definitely get used to this process.So those are the two capos, but there are many different capos out there, and they're all good, you just have to find what works for you, which is why I use these two. I know them well, and they serve me well. So let's move on to Creole Belle.
This exercise I came up with specifically to get you used to moving your hand with the thumb over the top. You see how when I move my hand around, my thumb automatically closes over the fretboard. So I'm going to give you two exercises here, one just with the thumb, and one with both the fingers and the thumb.
Now a faster playalong using thumb and fingers. And I wanted to point out that the C is anticipated, and I do that on purpose just to give you something different to do there, which will help you with Creole Belle and many other songs. And that is a phrase that Chet Atkins used all of the time, "get a steady thumb", now let's have that information channeled to us, shall we?
Okay, let's do Creole Belle. I've now got my capo on the fourth fret, and I'm set up to play this in C position, but technically it's an E. The moment I put a capo on and start playing, I'm thinking in C, because I'm using that position, even though I know it's in E. Now, let's go through the song nice and slowly, and I want to point out some things to you that we've been using in exercises to prepare you for playing this song. Now, I've got my thumb over the top, which may be difficult for you, so some of you might want to use your pointer finger. But I'm encouraging you to get your thumb used to coming over, which will be useful to you in hundreds of songs. Everyone who plays fingerstyle, they all get used to bringing their thumb over, and they realize what a great tool that is. So here we go, from the first phrase again. Now you'll see that I get my pinkey out to the side, just like in the exercise before, and I also use a little slide with my little finger. And I'm using a little slide there on the end of the phrase, which you don't actually have to do, but it sounds so nice. So I'll play the whole thing slowly now.When Doc did it, he sang it, and then he would take a solo. Okay, so once you get used to bringing your thumb over, you can move down two frets. Now we're in the key of D, but we're still thinking in C. And the reason I'm saying move down is that now the frets are slightly wider apart, and it will be more challenging to get the thumb over before making the giant leap down, and playing F, which is not easy. Eventually you should be trying to play in the key of C. But let's just start down here, with the capo on properly. Now, a little bluegrass player trick here is to put the capo on, and then they push down on the strings down near the sound hole to release any tension pulled into the string by the capo. And then you're off.
Okay, let's do Creole Belle. I've now got my capo on the fourth fret, and I'm set up to play this in C position, but technically it's an E. The moment I put a capo on and start playing, I'm thinking in C, because I'm using that position, even though I know it's in E. Now, let's go through the song nice and slowly, and I want to point out some things to you that we've been using in exercises to prepare you for playing this song. Now, I've got my thumb over the top, which may be difficult for you, so some of you might want to use your pointer finger. But I'm encouraging you to get your thumb used to coming over, which will be useful to you in hundreds of songs. Everyone who plays fingerstyle, they all get used to bringing their thumb over, and they realize what a great tool that is. So here we go, from the first phrase again. Now you'll see that I get my pinkey out to the side, just like in the exercise before, and I also use a little slide with my little finger. And I'm using a little slide there on the end of the phrase, which you don't actually have to do, but it sounds so nice. So I'll play the whole thing slowly now. When Doc did it, he sang it, and then he would take a solo. Okay, so once you get used to bringing your thumb over, you can move down two frets. Now we're in the key of D, but we're still thinking in C. And the reason I'm saying move down is that now the frets are slightly wider apart, and it will be more challenging to get the thumb over before making the giant leap down, and playing F, which is not easy. Eventually you should be trying to play in the key of C. But let's just start down here, with the capo on properly. Now, a little bluegrass player trick here is to put the capo on, and then they push down on the strings down near the sound hole to release any tension pulled into the string by the capo. And then you're off.
I'm going to give you this little exercise now, and it's tough, it's a hard little exercise. But that's because that part of the song, where the exercise is found, is the hardest part of the song. And just in general, when you're working on songs and arrangements and you find passages that are really difficult, you should concentrate on them and practice them, and try to get the whole arrangement so it all moves smoothly. It takes time and diligence to smooth out those bumps in the road. So this is the exercise, I hope I can play it, I only just worked it out. So it starts out with a C# note high with an A bass. So I'm hitting C# there, then I go to the D note, and then open A. So here it goes. Give yourself time, go slowly, it's challenging and it's hard. But as you just saw, it is doable, and it all fits together nicely. It is a bit of a brain teaser, and a mechanical motorskill teaser, as well. But with practice, diligence, and repetition - your friend repetition - it will come together, I promise.
I'm going to play the Yankee Doodle Dixie really slowly for you. This is really hard, so go steady. If I make a mistake, send me the bill, I don't care.
Just to reenforce what I said earlier about learning songs, using repetition as your tool to help you not only get better at playing the pieces, but remembering them. You've got memory in your mind and memory in your muscles. Repetition is your friend! So work hard on that, and that will help you become a much better player. People are going to tell you they don't want to hear you play the same thing over and over. Well, there's a lesson to be learned here too, Don't practice in front of others. Just go to a private place, your music room, your bedroom, or whatever. Somewhere where when you use repetition, it doesn't bother other people, because nobody else needs it but the player, we're the ones who need it. So, repetition is something that is really important. Go over the songs meticulously, go back over the exercises, and be thorough about it. If you want to get good at this thing, you better get to work.
Well, this has been a fun course, and I hope that it's opened the door for you to come into the world of fingerstyle, and that we've unlocked some of the mystery for you. Now you're like a crazy animal, the door's been opened, and you're out there! You're going to have a great time with the skills that you've learned, working out arrangmenets. So I sincerely hope that you've enjoyed it, and that you get a lot out of it. That's my goal for you. I hope to see you down the road somewhere, visit my website tommyemmanuel.com, drop us a line if you want, or maybe we'll see you at a gig somewhere down the endless road. See you.
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